While the financial crisis has wreaked havoc on the lives, careers and bank accounts of many, it's actually been pretty sweet for former Goldman executive Peter Kraus. After leaving Goldman in March 2008 he collected $25 million for a few months of work at Merrill Lynch and then took his current job as chairman and CEO of AllianceBernstein. He also bought a five-bedroom apartment at 720 Park Avenue for $37 million and by all accounts seems to be having a pretty good time. Still though, there's one thing that likely plagues him. Not the public flogging he took for an eight-figure paycheck around the time the economy was having its ass torn out but something so much worse. His rejection by 2008 Banker Of The Year, Ken Lewis.
In FT reporter Greg Farrell's new book, Crash Of The Titans, he writes that "one thing was clear to Lewis"-- that "the 'Goldman Guys'-- Thain, Kraus and Montag-- had been in the process of taking over Merrill Lynch when he struck the deal to buy the Wall Street bank [and] that Peter Kraus would not fit into the organization." Why didn't K-L like Pedro? Specifically, in one particular meeting, Kraus "turned himself into the center of attention in the conference room, talking nonstop and continually flashing his bright green BlackBerry," and in general? Ken Lewis hated Peter Kraus because he's fabulous.
Fabulousness in dress:
Kraus, with piercing blue eyes and a neatly trimmed beard, donned pink and lavender shirts as well as ties sporting splashy colors and patterns. He wore plaid suits and a wristwatch that looked like it had come from the Museum of Modern Art. He took great care and attention on his own presentation and appearance. He looked more like the creative director of a large advertising agency than an investment banker. The women who worked directly for Thain-- Margaret Tutwiler and May Lee-- admired their boss's fierce intellect but were absolutely taken with Kraus's presence. He was the epitome of urban sophistication and taste.
Fabulousness in his eye for design:
Kraus was above having a simple office. Just as Thain and his wife had recoiled at O'Neal's decor, Kraus was repelled by the contours and confines of a plain four-walled space with a desk. An avid collector of modern art, Kraus knew exactly what he wanted to do with his space...Most striking of his objects was a plasma screen that featured a group of French street cleaners sweeping sand in the desert. On a continuous loop, figures swept the sand, forming small mounds. The sand piles would then be dispersed by the wind forcing the figures to start sweeping all over again...Then there was "the bookcase." People entering Kraus's office immediately noticed the stunning art on the walls and out of the corner of their eyes, they'd also note the fact that Kraus had a large bookcase, about 30 feet long by 6 feet high. But either while speaking to Kraus, or walking across the office, visitors would do a double take when they got to the bookcase and realized that it was a piece o art itself and that the "books" were constructed from the same material as the "shelves." Greg Fleming ran afoul of Kraus one day when he dropped by for a casual chat and sidled up against the bookcase. "Please don't lean on that," Kraus said. "Why not?" Fleming asked. "It's a bookcase." "No," Kraus said. "It's art.
Fabulousness in vanity photoshoots:
Over the weekend, most of the executives going to and coming from the Federal Reserve accessed the building from the parking garage and the employee entrance on Maiden Lane. To accommodate requests for media access, the police designated an area across Maiden Lane as a special zone for cameramen and TV producers as well as reporters.
As the MER group made its way slowly out of the rear of the Fed onto Maiden Lane, Kraus noticed the photographers. He took out his phone, as if he were answering a call, and walked toward the media scrum. He paused in front of the photographers and stared ahead into the distance, portentously, as though contemplating an issue of great significance, one that could affect the course of financial history. A dozen or so photographers snapped pictures furiously, capturing this indelible image of Wall Street, poised at the brink. Slowly, Kraus turned away from the photographers, put the phone back in his pocket and rejoined his colleagues from Merrill Lynch.